If the team’s last-place standing in the AFC South hadn’t already sealed the deal, the NFL Players Association drilled the final nail in Coughlin’s coffin with a scathing letter Monday.
“It should be noted that Jaguars players continue to be at odds with Jaguars management over their rights under the CBA far more than players on other clubs,” the letter reads. “In the last two years, more than 25% of the grievances filed by players in the entire league have been filed against the Jaguars. You as players may want to consider this when you have a chance to select your next club.”
Jaguars ownership took that to heart and relieved the longtime NFL veteran of his duties Wednesday. The team also couldn’t have been surprised. This is exactly what it signed up for when it brought Coughlin back to Jacksonville in 2017.
The Jaguars let Tom Coughlin ruin them twice
Coughlin was the first coach of the Jaguars, leading them to the AFC Championship Game in two of the franchise’s first five seasons. He damn near killed the team in training camp and his autocratic ways came close to inspiring a mutiny.
“We had a tough point at the midpoint of the  season,” former Jaguars defensive lineman Jeff Lageman told Bleacher Report. “We almost had a little rebellion against the head coach, because he was just riding us and riding us. [Owner] Wayne Weaver called a few players in and talked to us.”
But they won games and, for most in Jacksonville, the ends justified the means. That success on the field made Coughlin a popular figure in the city.
However, it was his poor choices as the Jaguars’ de facto general manager that eventually got him fired. Coughlin plunged the team into a salary cap hell.
In 2002 alone, Jacksonville was forced to part ways with Pro Bowlers Tony Boselli, Keenan McCardell, Hardy Nickerson, Kevin Hardy, and Gary Walker, among others, to save space.
After his dismissal at the end of the 2002 season, Coughlin became the Giants’ head coach, and it was largely the same story. He led the team to big things — even winning two Super Bowls during his tenure — all while pissing his players off.
“Coughlin, we hated him,” former Giants defensive end Michael Strahan told Colin Cowherd in 2017. “And it was real. It was no public persona. We hated the man. But now he learned that you can be tough, everybody’s going to have the same goal — to win — but you have to let [people] know you’re human. You have to know I care about you. And once he learned to let us know he cared about us, we loved him.”
When Coughlin stepped down in New York in 2016 — a move that wasn’t exactly his choice — the Jaguars thought it’d be a good idea to give him another shot at managing personnel. Despite that being the one facet he failed in his first stint with the team.
Jacksonville got the worst of both worlds. It got the executive who is incapable of managing the salary cap and not good enough at evaluating talent. It also got the authoritarian who treats grown men like children. Now the team is in disarray.
Tough love doesn’t work as an NFL executive
According to the NFLPA, a Jaguars player was fined $700,000 for opting to rehab an injury outside of Jacksonville during the 2018 offseason. That’s a clear violation of the CBA, which definitely protects players from being asked to stay in a city 365 days out of the year.
Pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. was later revealed to be that player. He was traded to the Rams during the 2018 season and eventually recouped the money.
They literally hated me . I got it all back though! Thanks to the NFLPA https://t.co/vUIg5tsKvr— Dante fowler (@dantefowler) December 16, 2019
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey also took issue with the Jaguars’ front office. In April 2019, Coughlin criticized both Ramsey and linebacker Telvin Smith for not showing up to voluntary workouts. That comment earned Coughlin a stern warning from the NFL and NFLPA regarding the definition of the word “voluntary.”
Ramsey was traded to the Rams in October after alleging “the disrespect got to another level” in a postgame meeting in September. He also went to Twitter following the Monday news about the Jaguars:
Tried to tell y’all ♂️ ♂️— Jalen Ramsey (@jalenramsey) December 17, 2019
Coughlin ripped into running back Leonard Fournette and lost another grievance for his actions:
RB Leonard Fournette confirms he won a grievance against Jaguars to get a $99K fine rescinded. Tom Coughlin fined Fournette for his actions (sitting on the bench while inactive) during the 2018 season finale— Mark Long (@APMarkLong) December 18, 2019
He hadn’t been on good terms with defensive end Yannick Ngakoue either.
#Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue: "They had a chance to sign me for a long-term deal but it didn't get done. It is what it is. I love football, love my teammates, and I'm here to play games."— Phillip Heilman (@phillip_heilman) August 4, 2019
Could a deal get done before the season?
"It's out of my hands. I don't even know."
Not only did he chase off talent, the NFLPA has explicitly warned prospective free agents against signing in Jacksonville.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars’ roster has crumbled
The team spent $130 million on quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Nick Foles in back-to-back offseasons, and got nothing to show for it. Bortles was released and Foles was benched.
During the 2019 season, Jacksonville became the first team since the 1986 Buccaneers to lose five consecutive games by at least 17 points. The Jaguars are also currently on the hook for more than $208 million in salary cap obligations in 2020. That’s a big problem considering the cap is projected to land in the $196.8-201.2 million range.
At least Coughlin landed the Jaguars extra first-round picks in 2020 and 2021 via the Ramsey trade. Otherwise, the remaining positives of his three seasons running the show are few and far between. The team is in shambles, it has a reputation for screwing players over, and Coughlin’s legacy in Jacksonville is ruined.
The Jaguars’ only option now is to clean house and start over. Firing Coughlin is just the first step.